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Fergus Ewing updates Rural Committee on CAP Payments

On Wednesday of this week Fergus Ewing gave evidence to the Rural Economy Committee on the latest position with regard to CAP payments and the EU’s Pillar 1 payments deadline of 30 June. [read more] 
The Scottish Government’s CAP Futures IT Programme has been beset with problems for the outset.  While Mr Ewing inherited this system rather than being at the forefront of its development, he has nevertheless given commitments in the past that 2016 payments would meet the June, 30th deadline imposed by Brussels, and more generally that he would put things right to ensure a “fit for purpose” system going forward.  This week in front of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee he said that while not impossible, the forecast was that the Scottish Government would have made 90% of payments rather than the required 95.25% by the end of the week (30 June).  
The upshot of this is not necessarily that there are lots farmers out of pocket by large amounts, most have had an interest-free loan to tide them over until payment arrives, but that Scotland faces the possibility of EU fines for not meeting the deadline.  Audit Scotland estimated that fines could be as high as £60 million, although the Cabinet Secretary and government officials say this is a gross over-estimate and they would expect any penalties to be considerably lower.
The Scottish Government has applied for an extension to the payment deadline which is being considered by Brussels at the moment.  The extension request is to 15 October, although the Scottish Government says it does not expect to need anything like this long to get to the 95.25% compliance rate.
The Committee were also advised that other 2016 payments would be made to the following timetable – 
LFASS payments – summer 2017
Rural Priorities, AECS, Land Managers’ Options and Beef and Sheep Schemes – Autumn 2017
A small tail of 2015 payments still remains to be made.  This is not unusual and is the particularly difficult cases that require further information and/or investigation.
The full evidence session is available here

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